Leadership and Socks

Leadership and Socks

Dave Kinnear 1-On Leadership

Bad Habit:

I have a (bad) habit of sometimes putting my feet up on the chair across from me at the home breakfast table. I do this after I have finished breakfast and have moved my plate out of the way. I have also pulled my Kindle reader close and topped off my coffee. I hope to merely relax and focus on the book and topic of interest.

Here’s the problem. This table came in a box, and I had to assemble it. The legs were held to the underside of the round top by cloth straps stapled to the wood. To complete the table, I pulled the straps off the legs and bolted the legs in place. I overlooked the small detail that the staples didn’t pull out completely in several cases but rather broke, leaving a sharp metal staple “leg” exposed. Not a problem unless you are putting your sock-clad feet up on a chair under the table. The chair is oriented such that those

damn staples snag my socks and irritate my toes. Of course, I do not want to be distracted by such things. And the staples have created holes in otherwise good socks.

Can’t Let It Go

Of course, I had to climb under the table with pliers and pull the staples out where I could. A couple of them were too stubborn to pull out, and I had to pound them in below the wood surface instead. Note: I put this table together ten years ago. It’s has been annoying me all this time. I know I should have done things right the first time. I should have paid attention to my work. And, I should have taken care of the annoyance as soon as I discovered the oversight. I didn’t. Something else always seemed more urgent.

Business Process Holes

Similarly, I think we have lots of minor irritations in our business processes. They continuously eat away at our productivity but seem too insignificant to stop what we’re doing to address them. We tell ourselves that we have to stay focused on the task, the objective. So we wind up living with inefficiencies that we could quickly eliminate for ourselves and our team. What’s with that? How long should we put up with the “this is annoying, but I can’t fix it now; I’ll do it later,” syndrome?

Are you needlessly putting holes in your business process socks? As a leader, are you allowing your team to address the small irritants that destroy effectiveness and efficiency? Do you give your team permission to address productivity killers, or does your compensation plan focus on short-term results rather than long-term efficiency? Sometimes leadership does mean paying attention to details and encouraging long-term thinking.

[Lightly edited in 9/2020 for our new website.]